A Platypus Tour Guide Shares Hidden Treasures of the Napa Valley
Posted on January 02, 2014
This Week: Whetstone Wine Cellars
A hidden historical winery estate sits in the northeast corner of the city of Napa, just a few blocks south of the Silverado Country Club. Whetstone Wine Cellars occupies a beautiful structure built in 1885, and is located at 1075 Atlas Peak Road. Jamey and Michelle Whetstone are the co-owners, with Jamey as the winemaker and viticulture expert, and Michelle as manager of everything else.
Jamey learned his craft from the very best in the wine industry: Larry Turley and Ehren Jordan. Jamey started at Turley Cellars in 1998, where he was first assigned to care for the vineyards. He took one summer to intern in France at Domaine Dujac, which solidified his love for Pinot Noir. Jamey started Whetstone in 2002 while still learning at Turley, and 2005 saw Jamey departing Turley and getting Whetstone started full time.
Jamey Whetstone creates some of the most stunning wines in the Napa Valley, with his Pinot Noirs created from several Sonoma County locations. The locations of these Pinot Noir grapes are where a lot of world class wine originates, such as the Sonoma Coast Appellation and the Russian River Appellation. Pinot Noir is known as the most troublesome grape to grow, with its thin skins creating all sorts of potential headaches. This is where Jamey’s long history managing vineyards for Turley really helps. Jamey also creates a yummy Viognier from the Russian River Valley and a Syrah from both the Sonoma Coast and the Phoenix Ranch in the eastern part of Napa. Also, Whetstone produces some delicious Chardonnay from the Carneros region of Napa Valley. Though the winery is headquartered in Napa, Jamey seeks out the best fruit from all over Napa and Sonoma Counties.
I will share the “Winemakers Tasting Notes” regarding his 2010 Phoenix Ranch Syrah, to illustrate the amazing passion and attention to detail of Jamey Whetstone’s winemaking: “Bottled unfined, unfiltered, all neutral French oak, 55% whole cluster fermentation, 28 months in barrel with one racking at bottling, deep garnet in color. Super big nose full of violets, black licorice, cassis, white pepper and animale. Secondary aromas of bacon fat, camphor and red meats. Bold ripe flavors of cassis, blueberry, dark peppery plums, chewy pomegranate, and cigar. Long, velvety finish of plum and tobacco. 158 cases produced. Alcohol 16%.” All of Whetstone’s other wines are fantastic, and you may think you have never tasted a better Pinot Noir in your lifetime.
The Whetstone family has progressed this far through sheer hard work, and they have four young children at home to raise. I met Michelle Whetstone a couple of years ago when she was pouring her wines at another location, and she told me she was securing her present Atlas Peak Road building soon. I made sure I was one of the first visitors at her new location, and tasted her wines. I was extremely impressed, and have since brought many visitors to Whetstone.
When Michelle found her present building on Atlas Peak Road, it had been unoccupied and overgrown with vines for over 15 years. The structure was a complete mess due to no maintenance for all those years, and Jamey and Michelle had a huge project to restore the beauty to the building. After many months of extremely hard work and lots of money invested, the present winery structure is now one of the most beautifully restored historic structures in the Napa Valley.
You will really enjoy any trip to the Whetstone Wine Cellars, because the facility is unusually attractive, the hosts are super friendly, and the wine is really excellent!
Written by tour guide Steve Hunter
Next Week: Chase Cellars!